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What Does It Take To Get A School Reopening Waiver In LA County?

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Los Angeles County remains in the state’s most restrictive reopening tier, which means K-12 schools in the county still cannot reopen their doors and welcome everybody back to campus just yet.

But, starting today, there’s a new way to get the county’s youngest learners back to school for in-person instruction: schools can apply for waivers from the rules that prevent them from bringing all students back to campus.

There are some catches, though:

  • Any waivers granted will only apply to pre-K through second grade classes.
  • The county is approaching this slowly, which means it’ll only grant 30 waivers per week.
  • Schools with high percentages of low-income students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch will be “prioritized” in the process.
  • It could take public health officials up to three weeks to review applications.

“If we do this well, even if there's a higher rate of transmission in some of our neighborhoods, we shouldn't see that translate to a lot of spread in our schools,” said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “That's why the students are cohorted to prevent this from becoming a schoolwide outbreak, and that's why infection control and distancing requirements are really stringent in schools.”



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Californians Can Again Apply For Unemployment Benefits After 2-Week Pause

A woman looks over paperwork from the Employment Development Department of California. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Starting today, Californians who are out of work will be able to once again file for unemployment benefits. The Employment Development Department is set to begin accepting new claims after a two-week "reset period."

Agency officials said they used the pause to catch up and improve technology including:

  • speeding up benefits payments
  • reducing fraud
  • getting through the backlog a little faster.

As of the end of September, more than 1.5 million Californians were waiting for their unemployment checks.


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Newsom Nominates 1st Openly Gay Man To CA Supreme Court, Hopes For COVID-19 County Tier Updates By January


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to coronavirus and the state's wildfires, as well as announcing an appointment to the state supreme court. You can read highlights below or watch the full news conference above.


Newsom opened by announcing an appointment to the state's Supreme Court: Judge Martin Jenkins. He had a brief career in the NFL before leaving professional football to study law. He's been both a prosecutor and a federal judge. He was appointed to be Newsom's Judicial Appointments Secretary and Legal Affairs Secretary, coming out of retirement for the role in early 2019.

Jenkins is the third Black man to serve on the state's Supreme Court, and the first state justice to be openly gay. Jenkins appeared alongside the governor and noted that his career has spanned those of the prior Black men who held seats on the state Supreme Court. He also said that his identity as a gay man has perhaps been the greatest challenge of his life.

Jenkins thanked Newsom for the nomination, talking about the challenges the governor has faced dealing with both wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. Jenkins also thanked the previous man who held this seat, Justice Ming Chen. He also thanked his parents, and his partner.

He said:

"I want these young people to know that living a life of authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And, if you do that, you too will find yourself in a position where people see you. They really see you and who you are, your authentic self."


Newsom noted that COVID-19 is increasing across the country, and that while California is stable now, that could change. It takes between 20 and 30 days to see upticks in hospitalizations, according to Newsom.

When asked about helping businesses that have shut down, as well as mass layoffs such as those from the Disney Parks division last week, Newsom responded that these economic effects are the best argument for federal stimulus.

There were 3,055 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, with a seven-day average of 3,074 new cases per day. The state has a 2.8% positivity rate over the past two weeks, and a 2.6% positivity rate over the past week — the lowest rate recorded in the state since April.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 13% over the past two weeks, while ICU admissions are down 15% in that period. The rate of decrease is slowing in both hospitalizations and ICU admissions, beginning to hit a plateau, according to Newsom.

When asked about his own COVID-19 testing status, Newsom declined to provide specifics as far as how often he is tested beyond noting that he was tested when attending several events in recent weeks. Newsom added that if he were to test positive, that information would be made public.


There are currently 18 counties in the highest "purple" tier of the state's coronavirus reopening tiers, which determine what is allowed to be open, based on their COVID-19 numbers. There are 22 red counties, 15 orange counties, and 3 yellow counties. Which tier counties are in will be updated Tuesday, with Newsom saying that several counties are expected to proceed into the red, orange, and yellow tiers.

The tiers will hopefully be updated by the end of the calendar year, Newsom said.


Newsom said that every active, registered voter will receive a mail-in ballot for the first time in the state's history, starting Monday (though some have already received their ballots).

Asked if he would campaign for various candidates over this next month, Newsom said he was unsure. His reason? Newom said he's busy with governing, citing wildfires, COVID-19, the state budget, and more. Newsom said that he does think it's important to support causes that impact the lives of Californians.


There have been 8,687 structures destroyed and 31 deaths due to the state's wildfires so far, Newsom said. There have been better wind and other weather conditions, according to Newsom, helping to get these fires under control.

He provided updates on several of the largest wildfires affecting the state:

  • Bobcat Fire (L.A. County): 88% contained, 115,000 acres burned
  • Glass Fire: 30% contained, 65,000 acres burned
  • Zogg Fire: 76% contained, 56,000 acres burned
  • August Complex Fire: 54% contained, 1 million acres burned
  • North Complex Fire (Plumas, Lassen counties): 83% contained, 318,000 acres burned
  • Creek Fire (Fresno, Madera): 48% contained, 322,000 acres burned

Last week, Cal Fire officials released this startling visual putting this year's fires into context:

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After 007's Delay, Regal Closes 500 Theaters

A woman wearing a face mask walks past an image of James Bond actor Daniel Craig in a shop window in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in April. (Sergei Supinksy/AFP via Getty Images)

James Bond usually can be counted on to save the day. But when MGM delayed the release of the next 007 film, “No Time to Die,” one of the nation’s biggest chains said it had no choice but to padlock more than 500 domestic theaters.

Theater owners were banking on the Daniel Craig spy story to drive people back to the multiplex. Its release already had been postponed to November, but now “No Time to Die” won’t come out until next April — a full year after it was supposed to.

Cineworld, the company that owns the Regal movie theaters, said the delay was the last straw. With no new major studio movies set to hit theaters before December, Cineworld said it was closing all of its American Regal theaters, just two months after they reopened. Cineworld also is shuttering more than 100 cinemas in the United Kingdom.

Due to varying government restrictions, not all Regal venues were open — theaters remain closed in Los Angeles and New York.

“No Time to Die” was just the latest major studio release to ditch a planned theatrical release, following the disappointment performance of “Tenet,” which was released a month ago.

Over the last few days, the release dates for “Wonderwoman 1984,” “Candyman, “Black Widow” and “West Side Story” have all abandoned their theatrical releases, almost all for next year.

Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger told the Wall Street Journal:

"We are like a grocery shop that doesn't have vegetables, fruit, meat. We cannot operate for a long time without product."

Following Regal’s decision to close its domestic theaters, the stock prices of all the big movie chains plummeted today, and some may not have enough cash to make it.

In a letter sent last week to Congress, the National Assn. of Theater Owners, some top Hollywood labor unions and directors like “Tenet’s” Christopher Nolan, “Avatar’s” James Cameron, “Wonder Woman’s” Patty Jenkins and “Little Women’s” Greta Gerwig all asked for federal relief for theater owners.

NATO estimates that nearly 70% of small- and mid-sized theater chains could face bankruptcy soon, costing tens of thousands of people their jobs.

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City of LA Playgrounds Reopening After Coronavirus Closures

Hermon (Arroyo Seco) Park's playground near Highland Park was still closed as of Monday morning. (Mariana Dale/LAist)

The city of Los Angeles started reopening dozens of playgrounds Monday after a six-month closure designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“All playgrounds can be reopened for public use with mandatory social distancing and limited use up to 30 minutes,” reads an update on the Recreation and Parks website.

Playgrounds will begin to re-open individually as reconditioning cleaning, signage and safety inspections are completed.

We’ve reached out to the department for more details.

At Sycamore Grove Park near Highland Park this afternoon, the remnants of caution tape were still wrapped around the jungle gym. Guillermo De La Torre sat on a nearby bench with his 7-year-old son.

It was one of De La Torre's days off work driving for a seafood distribution company; on those days he brings his son to the park when his virtual school finishes up at noon.

"Fresh air is very important, because being cooped up in our apartment is frustrating," he said.

Has your neighborhood playground reopened? Email me at to tell me how it's going.

The California Department of Public Health last week announced playgrounds could reopen throughout the state, but local jurisdictions have the final say. L.A. County playgrounds remained closed as of Monday, while Orange County playgrounds welcomed kids and families back last Thursday.

Here are the state’s guidelines for playing safe:

  • Everyone 2 years and older should wear a mask.
  • Stay six feet apart from people from other households.
  • No eating or drinking, so face masks stay on.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Plan ahead and visit when you can avoid crowds.
  • Stay home if you’re elderly or have an underlying medical condition.
  • Share: To prevent crowding limit your visit to 30 minutes when other people are waiting to play.


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LAUSD Election Could Shatter Spending Records — Again


This year’s election for the LAUSD board is on pace to set another record for campaign spending.

With less than a month until election day, outside political groups have spent $11.3 million trying to influence two competitive races.

For now, the 2017 campaign holds the spending record, with outside groups reporting more than $14.8 million in “independent expenditures” during that cycle. But if the pace of spending in this year’s races continues, the 2017 record might not last for long.

Once again, charter school proponents and LAUSD’s main teachers union are driving most of this spending — and increasingly, the financial battle between the two is becoming one-sided:

  • Advocates aligned with charter schools have spent $8.6 million. That total includes $3.8 million from the California Charter Schools Association. Netflix founder Reed Hastings and another pro-charter school donor, Bill Bloomfield, have pooled funds in a new group called “Kids First,” which has spent more than $1 million so far. On his own, Bloomfield spent $3.8 million in the March primary.
  • United Teachers Los Angeles has spent $2.3 million. The candidates UTLA is supporting are also getting help from other labor unions — about $226,000 from the L.A. County Federation of Labor and SEIU Local 99.
  • Charter advocates have devoted $3.8 million of their spending to negative ads. The charter association has spent more than $1.7 million trying to sway voters against District 3 incumbent Scott Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley. Meanwhile, Bloomfield and Hastings are targeting candidate Patricia Castellanos, who’s running for the open District 7 seat that represents South L.A. and San Pedro.
  • UTLA has devoted around $350,000 of its spending to negative ads. It’s trying to defend Schmerelson from challenger Marilyn Koziatek. The union’s ads have also backed Castellanos in her race against Tanya Ortiz Franklin.

Why are they spending so much? Both UTLA and charter school groups are trying to secure friendly majorities on the school board. This year’s results could tip the balance of power.

The board’s swing vote, Richard Vladovic, is termed out of his seat in District 7 in December. Schmerelson is one of three board members whom UTLA considers friendly to its cause.

We’ll be releasing Q&As with each of the four candidates soon — and keeping an eye on the campaign finance totals.


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Morning Briefing: District Attorney Race Heats Up

(Screenshot from LA County DA's Office video)

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Good morning, L.A.

L.A. County’s district attorney race this year has been contentious, with incumbent Jackie Lacey drawing the ire of Black Lives Matter activists, and one particularly volatile incident in which her husband drew a gun on protesters outside their home.

Lacey has been criticized for not prosecuting law enforcement officials who use deadly force, and for only sentencing non-white people to death. (According to the L.A. Times, since taking office Lacey has secured the death penalty for 13 Latino defendants, eight Black defendants and one defendant of Asian descent.) The primary election in March resulted in a runoff, meaning that instead of holding onto her seat at that time, Lacey was forced to continue to defend it until voters hit the polls again next month.

Now, she’s been dealt another blow; L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti withdrew his support of Lacey on Sunday and threw it behind her challenger, former San Francisco D.A. George Gascón.

“[Gascón] knows how to promote public safety through partnerships with and beyond law enforcement,” Garcetti said in a statement. “[He] will help our county shift the burden from the criminal justice system and jails toward diversion, intervention, and re-entry programs that save money and save lives.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, October 5

After a decade in the making, the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge is open to the public, reports Sharon McNary. It’s higher, so there’s more clearance underneath for the largest cargo ships, and that opens up more Port of Long Beach berths to additional shipping business.

Only 9% of special education is informed through the census, but that funding is needed to fill opportunity gaps for students from low-income homes. Dana Amihere has more.

Carla Javier explains the process L.A. County schools must follow to apply for waivers to reopen in-person instruction for grades TK-2. She also examines why, three months after the LAUSD board voted to make cuts to the school police, there's been little movement on how and when to implement the cuts.

Watch two film festivals from the comfort of your car or couch, learn about the history of Bunker Hill, view Self Help Graphics' annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s best online and IRL events.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Wildfires: The Bobcat Fire is 84% contained, with a few remaining spots of brush continuing to burn themselves out around Mount Wilson.

Policing The Police: The Long Beach Police Department says it is investigating how a Trump flag emblazoned with "Make America Great Again" ended up flying over headquarters this weekend.

Coronavirus Updates: L.A. County public health officials on Sunday confirmed 933 new cases of the coronavirus and five new deaths attributed to the disease. As more people within President Trump's circle test positive for COVID-19, the way in which the White House has handled the pandemic all along has come under sharp scrutiny.

The D.A. Race: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has withdrawn his support for incumbent L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and announced his endorsement of challenger George Gascón.

Photo Of The Day

Supporters of President Trump took part in a caravan rally for his reelection in Glendale on Sunday.

(Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

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